UK Racketlon

Written by James Pope

After a truly enthralling 5 days in Leipzig, the dust settled on what had been a brilliant World Cup victory, part of a haul of 22 medals won by the British players in Germany.  It has been a wonderful 2019 World Championships.  After sending our largest ever team of players, including the debut of our U16's third and fourth teams, the U21's second team and the O55's second team, there were high hopes and none of the British players disappointed.  Here we present a full round up of how our eight World Champion teams or singles players were crowned and a full list of all our medal winners.  

 


The Challenge Cup (left), Nations Cup (right) and World Cup (centre), two of these are ours!


17 Years, but Finally One World Cup!
2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. On every single one of these occasions, England, Wales, Scotland or in recent years Great Britain have arrived at a World Team Championships, and left without the title. On three occasions (2002 – Scotland; 2004 – England; 2017 – Great Britain) the team returned with a bronze medal and on one occasion (2018 – Great Britain) a silver medal, but the top prize has alluded the British players. In 2019, on a glorious Friday evening, in Leipzig that all changed.


The GB 1 side first came past the challenges posed by Sweden and France in the Group B, setting up a table topping match against Denmark. As for 2019, there would be no semi-finals, this would decide who made the final and was therefore an effective semi-final. Denmark, again. In 2017, the Brits looked on course for the final, before an inspired tennis performance saw the Danes come from behind to reach the final. In 2018, it was close once again, a handful of points separating the sides, GB seeing out the Danish threat in Zurich. In 2019, it was to be no different. A nip and tuck match saw GB lead into the tennis, but once again the Danes were doing what they do best; trying to ruin British Racketlon parties. As the tennis wore on, the British lead withered and it all came down to a winner takes all game of tennis between Kresten Hougaard and Leon Griffiths. At 5-3 to Kresten, the British fans were in pieces, flashbacks to Vienna 2017 abounding. But Leon came through, victory put Britain into a second consecutive final.


Germany defeated Austria in the other group, setting up a classic sporting encounter, thankfully this time, there were no penalties, just a potential gumi-arm! It was a thrilling final. If the Germans edged ahead, then the Brits clawed it back, if Britain got clear, then the Germans struck back. However, the squash would prove to be decisive. The Brits broke clear and had a 23 point lead into the tennis. But being behind into tennis was no issue for the Germans. They had trailed the Austrian’s by 11 points with 22 remaining in their final group match and won, so 23 points with 44 to play for was no trouble. When Cornelius Radermacher had raced 7-0 clear on Dan Busby, it was starting to look like a trivial target. But Dan is as belligerent as they come and he fought back to only lose 11-5, only 6 points reclaimed and a 17 point lead. It was now time for the women’s singles. GB lead by 17, but beknownst only to a few players and spectators, a 10-5 win or better would seal GB’s crown. Amke Fischer had a 3-0 lead early doors, so it was looking like that fact was irrelevant, but then Izzy just clicked. Izzy became a wall, no matter where Amke hit the ball, Izzy got it back, she covered the court with ease and took any half chances her opponent offered. At 10-4 it was match points and well, I’ll leave it to the video to do it all justice.


It is a credit to Izzy, that even in the heat of such a historic victory, her first thought was to offer her hand to Amke, a fine example of how to behave in victory. Izzy would also be one of the first to remind you that it was a whole team effort. Hannah Boden playing in group matches to allow Izzy to help the O45s team, while the four men in the side, played all four matches due to injuries hitting the squad at late stages. Dan Busby, Leon Griffiths and Duncan Stahl are all experienced in this team, but Luke Griffiths was on debut. He would go on to not lose a match, and display a composure far belaying his youthful age. In particular the squash legs in the doubles against Denmark (6-0) and Germany (6-2) handed partner Duncan Stahl an easy task to mop up the remaining points and secure big wins. The Danes indicating their respect for the youngster, highlighting how he seemed to get better the more pressure that was applied. All in all, it was a brilliant day and a wonderful result.  The full FIR report is here.  

 

Most Nations Fell, the Brits Rose
Seven teams competed in the Nations Cup, but ultimately it was the two British sides, GB2 and GB3 who won their respective groups and would contest the final! It is fair to say that fans of a sporting upset were in the camp of the GB3 side (Jack Bishop (capt), Johnny Bispham, Peter Browning David Edgar, Kathryn Schutterlin and Jon Spinks) hoping that they would cause an upset and defeat the GB2 side (Alex Du Noyer (capt), Luke Barnes, Will Coley, Matthew Davidson, James Langworthy and Matilda Parslow). It was tight after the TT and the Badminton, GB2 led by only 10 points, and the lovers of sporting upsets, were dreaming of the perfect outcome.


Alas, into the squash and the GB2 side started to show their class. They eased away and earned themselves a comfortable lead, they would need 12 points in the tennis to seal the Nations Cup title and defend their 2018 crown. Jack Bishop however, was not going to roll over and let the second team have an easy win. He proved himself to be the “best man” and defeated good friend Luke Barnes 11-9, however, it did mean that GB2 led by 33 points with 33 remaining, GB3 were on the ropes. Into the Women’s singles and while Kathryn Schutterlin won the first point, Matilda Parslow capped what has been a fine personal year by hitting the winning point for GB2, in mathematically easier circumstances than last year! For Great Britain to win the World Cup, the Nations Cup and secure second place in that event as well, is a wonderful advert for the UK Tour. The strength and depth of the tour is enabling the UK to produce an unprecedented supply of talented Racketlon players.

 

 


Successful Defenders
The Great Britain 2’s were not the only Brits to defend their World titles, as four more titles were defended in Leipzig. Sticking with the teams, Luke Griffiths and Matt Davidson joined forces to dominate the U16s Team event. They defeated Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic without needing their tennis rackets in any of the matches, a truly dominant performance. GB have won this event every since 2014 and that incredible run continues. It was especially impressive given that Luke and Matt were also involved in the title winning GB1 and GB2 sides respectively, for both boys to win two world titles in team events is immensely impressive. Luke would also defend his Boy’s U16s Singles World Title, again dominating the event, his tennis racket staying firmly in his bag. Luke has won three triple crowns in the U16s (singles, doubles and teams) plus a double crown (in 2018 when he couldn’t make the doubles event), going undefeated in this event since 2014!


Another successful defender was brother Leon, who once again secured the U21’s World Title, he had to work slightly harder than brother Luke, he needed three points of tennis to defeat Luke Pentinnen in the final. Our final defending champion, was Jo Shelley. Jo reclaimed her Women’s O50s title with an excellent performance in their five woman round robin. None of the other women could get close to her.

 

Reclaiming Previously Won Titles
There were also a couple of titles won for the first time in quite a while. The O45s team event has had the Brits there or thereabouts, since they were last victorious in 2013, their record runs: 3rd, 2nd, 3rd, 2nd, and 2nd. In 2019 they went that extra step up the podium with victory. It was a fraught affair for the British team (Richard Middleton (capt), Izzy Bramhall, Paul Doney, Jon Foulds, Jeremy Krzystyniak, Simon Lau & Jo Shelley). The favoured teams, GB, Czech Republic 1 and Germany all defeated the Swedish and Czech Republic 2nd teams, leaving a three way shoot-out for the medals. GB demolished the Czech side, who had defeated the Germans by a solitary point. These set of results meant, that even though the Brits suffered a narrow defeat to the Germans, they were still ahead of the Czech’s and the Germans when point count back was calculated.


Finally, we come to the U16’s Girls which was last won by Katie Birt at the 2014 World Championships in London (and the European title in 2015 by Hannah Boden). In Leipzig, there was a new name in the pantheon of British World Champions as Alexandra "Lexie" Ogram came through the four girl round robin to claim a world title on her international event debut! Lexie was the class of this field and three confident victories saw her claim the crown.

 

Rest the Best: Our Other Medallists

In addition to our 8 World Champions, there were an additional 8 Silver medals and 6 bronze medals. Amongst them were Silver medals for:

  • Cherisse Lau (Women’s C)
  • Claudia Vincent (Girls U16s)
  • GB 3 – Nations Cup
  • GB U21s 1’s
  • Geoff Jordan (Men’s O70s)
  • Hannah Boden (Girls U21s)
  • Isabelle Bramhall (Women’s Elite)
  • Matthew Davidson (Boys U18s)

There were bronze medals for:

  • Dianne Baker (Women’s O55s)
  • GB O55s 1’s
  • Martyn Langston (Men’s O55s)
  • Neil Rayner (Men’s O60s)
  • Piers Boden (Boy’s U21s)
  • Ross Wilson (Boy’s U18s)

Congratulations to all our medallists and our World Champions, the UK Racketlon Roll of Honour has been updated with all our new World Champions, Team Results and of course the GB Caps List. The 2020 World Championships will be in Rotterdam and we hope to see another year of great British representation and hopefully plenty of medallists there. And of course, the vast majority of these players are regulars on the UK Tour, so if you want to measure yourself against a World Champion or World Championships medallist, you should check out the 2020 UK Tour, information on the 2020 tour can be found here.  

Finally, a huge thank you and well done to Duncan Stahl & Amke Fischer for putting on a great event, at a new location at short notice.  They, and their exceptional team of volunteers including our very own Helen Ford, Dom Ford and Steve Bispham, kept the event running smoothly, never easy when you have 450 players playing over 1100 matches in 5 days, a huge thank you and well done to them all.  We would also be remiss to not thank Dan Busby.  As our national team captain, Dan is responsible for a huge amount of organisation with respect to the team events, both as part of the selection committee and then co-ordinating player information in the weeks running up to the event and being on hand for all the teams during the event itself. Dan has decided to stand down from this role, please see the statement here.   

 

Winners Graphics thanks to Sam Barker (FIR/racketlon.net), O45s Team Shot thanks to Jon Foulds